Small Changes to Reach Long-Term Goals
One of my favorite tips when it comes to reaching goals of any sort is to stick to changes that are so small you hardly notice the adjustment—especially when you’re reaching for big results such as in your overall lifestyle. The only way to create lifestyle changes is with long-term consistency and if your changes are too big or too extreme from your current day-to-day routine the likelihood of sticking to them, not to mention your success rate, will be much lower and much more frustrating, too!
Think about it—when you look at where you are now, whatever the case may be, your current fitness level, eating habits, size, weight, attitude, etc., have developed over time. Even if you didn’t notice it happen along the way, it took consistency to get you where you are today. That momentum can just as easily be redirected towards healthy living and for some of us the key is subtlety so it feels less like work and before you know it, the new habits are part of your every day. Depending on your goals and where you are now, try a new approach from below and see what works for you:
Fitness: I see people try to go “Zero to 60” all the time and it’s no surprise that the burnout happens just as quickly. Rather than try to go straight from the couch to INSANITY, try something much more subtle for your level of fitness. If you are currently sedentary try adding 10-15 minutes on a treadmill, taking a walk or a much milder workout video to your day.
When I went from the couch to introducing activity, the first video I tried was a Pilates workout that I barely got through the first time. I could only complete 15 minutes of the 45 minute video before I felt like I had to stop but that only lasted the first week. By the second week of trying it daily I could feel my muscles just a tiny bit stronger and my breathing felt a little bit easier, too. That improvement I felt really motivated me to do more which is another key to consistency as well as last week’s tip!
That was over six years ago for me and, trust me, every time I added something new, increased my time or pushed a little harder it was at a pace that was just enough to know I was working but not too much that I couldn’t MAINTAIN it. Whenever I try something new and my immediate reaction is negative in any way (such as thinking “THIS SUCKS!” or “this is too hard” or “I don’t like this”) I instantly pull back, evaluate myself and the situation and do what I can.
Sometimes it’s the workout itself that just isn’t fun for me and I decide I’d rather workout a different way so it’s about trying lots of different things to find what you enjoy. Other times it’s just introducing your muscles to new challenges and if you can’t handle the plank or push-ups or hour-long cardio, etc., do what you can, breathe through it and know that next time, you WILL be able to hold it a few seconds more, get one more repetition in or handle the activity longer IF you keep trying! You can’t expect your muscles to suddenly hold you up and keep you going overnight if you haven’t given them a chance to build up over time!
Nutrition: I’m SO proud of all of the ladies I’ve spoken to who are already making great strides in changing their eating habits which can be the hardest types of changes for many of us. A good thing to remember about nutrition above all is that it will always be something we have to work on regardless of your level of health so don’t be discouraged if your habits sway from time to time. Because food is a necessity for our survival and yet has such a cultural, social and emotional aspect to it as well, the challenges can seem never-ending. But by constantly making small adjustments towards healthy choices the majority of the time it will be enough for you to start seeing (and feeling!) results.
For me, polishing off entire “meals” at chain restaurants or with fast food junk was a norm only ten years ago but that took YEARS of practice to get there, too! First, slowly cutting back on portions and then adjusting the quality of food on a daily basis took about a year of consistency before my body adopted the need for cleaner, lighter, more natural food. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy an occasional indulgence, it just means that I can detect the non-necessities in different foods such as excessive fats, salt and sugar much faster than I could before and I just avoid them most of the time.
Attitude: We’re all guilty of spending more of our time and energy than necessary on negative attitudes, judgments and excuses but there’s no time like the present to start adjusting those thoughts. No one expects you to suddenly become super-positive-overly-optimistic-happy-go-lucky especially if you’ve been in the habit of easily picking out and voicing the negative in every situation for years.
There’s no judgment here, but this is what I truly believe: No matter what you’re trying to change in you and in your life, if you’re attitude going in is already based on how much you hate exercise or hate vegetables or hate giving up certain foods, or hate ANYTHING including what you’re about to do, you’ve pretty much already set yourself up for FAILURE. Don’t expect to succeed if you can’t even imagine success before you start. I’m even inclined to say don’t even start a new health regimen until you can get your head in the right place because no matter what you accomplish during that time, it’s doubtful you’ll be able to maintain it in the long-run.
So start small. Listen to your language and the words that you use especially when you’re upset or in a stressful situation. Exercise is essentially stress on the body and changing habits as ingrained as the way we eat can be mentally and emotionally stressful. Once you’re in the habit of being aware that you’re saying something that isn’t encouraging, supportive or kind, quiet yourself. Then start to change your approach. If you can’t think of anything kind just stay quiet and breathe. Then, when you allow yourself to be more creative come up with a mantra that motivates you and say it to yourself whenever you struggle: “I AM STRONGER THAN EVER!” or “JUST ONE MORE REP!” or “I’M WORTH IT!” or “I CAN DO THIS!” can all represent the attitude that WILL keep you going.